The bloom may be off the Kindle Fire rose. The New York Times reports that a number of Kindle Fire users are returning the device with a litany of complaints, including the lack of an external volume control, a power button that is easy to hit by accident, sluggish applications and web browsing, and lack of privacy. Usability guru Jakob Nielsen predicted the Kindle Fire would be a “failure.”

Amazon, however, says that the Fire is its most successful product ever, and an Amazon spokesman has told the New York Times that it will be rolling out an over-the-air update in two weeks to address a number of customer complaints. Analysts are not raising or lowering their estimates that Amazon will sell three to five million Kindles this quarter.

Is the Fire going to blaze or fizzle? It’s too soon to tell—but I’m pretty sure Amazon will do everything in its power to blow on the coals.


  1. A telling quote:
    “Many of the initial customers of the Fire seem to have bought it on a mixture of faith and hype. The striking thing even about some of the one-star reviewers is that they are regretful rather than angry. One review, couched as an open letter to Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, began: “I have spent thousands on your outstanding site. I own and love the original kindle. When asked about why I would buy a Fire when I had an ipad, I said that half of me wanted to just support your effort and that I believed amazon just did things right.” The reviewer is now recommending that friends skip lunch to buy an iPad.”

    Buying a product to “support their effort”? On hope and hype?
    Almost as clueless as telling people to stop eating to pay for a toy.

    So far the FIRE launch is starting to look a lot like a typical *Apple* intro: massive pre-launch hype, followed by post-launch disappointment and media carping, eventually settling into good sales and the realization that the “miraculous” product is “merely” a useful device.

    If Nielsen’s gripe is the worst they can dig up, FIRE and its successors have a long life ahead of them.

  2. A really good “rule of thumb” when buying ANY tech device is to wait until version 2.

    It’s no surprise at all that the version 1 Fire has teething pains. That being said, my wife is happy with her Fire. To my amazement she actually prefers to read ebooks on it over an eInk Kindle. And she can watch streaming video from anywhere in the house.

    It is a cheap useful device. Version 2 will get better but the current version is still a great value for many people.

  3. I got one for my family to try out and they all agree it’s pretty nice. I love my eInk Kindle and am not a good target for the rest of the Fire features, but it’s great for my husband. My eldest son just got one as a Christmas gift from his boss (he got every employee one!) and loves it.

    I think those who returned it had unrealistic expectations. They mostly seemed to think that they would get an iPad equivalent for $199. If they had done their research and read through the product page, they would have seen that their expectations were wrong.

    The general consensus is that the Fire delivers what it promised, which is really what you want when you purchase a device. It’s not perfect, but the software will update some of those issues.

    The only real defect to me is the lack of physical volume buttons.

  4. The problem here for Amazon is not that there is anything wrong with the Fire. It is about creating and meeting expectation.
    As an Apple user I could see immediately that the Fire never really looked like a competitor to the iPad. It was never going to have the horse power or the software. But it would appeal to lots and lots of people, as long as they know what they are getting.

    Amazon chose to pitch the Fire, and encourage others to claim it, as a fully fledged Tablet on a par with the iPad. But they knew full well that they didn’t put the hardware in it to achieve that. They cut costs and kept the grunt factor well down and chose limited software.

    So people who bought the Fire thinking that it was a brilliant cheaper alternative to the iPad but would do the same stuff …. will always be really disappointed.

    Those who can see the reality of the Fire, and just want a souped up eReader with a few extra video frills will be mostly happy.

    The market is gigantic for eReaders and Tablets. There is plenty of room for high performance models and love performance models. What people need to know is what they want it for and what will they actually get for their money.

  5. Don’t need one, don’t want one. I recently returned a NOOK Touch,finding it to be a toy device with little merit for the price. One was returned and replaced within 3 days of use as the side page turn buttons stopped working, and after a week of reading on the replacement I found the experience less than exhilirating. I have read eBooks since Palm and Peanut Press days, and the NOOKTouch to me is a $39-59 device that should be almost given away to get people buying books. It isn’t even that pocketable, especially with most cases. What is it’s point?

    That said, my wife’s NOOK Color is a nice device as it does so much more, and reading on it is a breeze and pleasant. Still, it is heavy, clunky to carry around, and un-necessary for most if they have an iPhone or android device.

    SO back to the FIRE…I looked at it, played with it, carried it around a store for a while…and was less than awed or thrilled. Maybe my iPhone 4S has finally spoiled me, but ALL these devices seem like quick grabs for customers with false promises, poor performance, and for some complicated systems. For what they cost, they should work, and work well. They are NOT iPads, nor are they iPhones, and I believe MANY people will be unhappy and scared away from such devices in the future the way these work.

    In the mean time, my NOOK app on my iPhone is just fine and all I need. Redundant functionality with too many devices to worry about takes away the smplicity of having it all in one place. Why are going in that direction?

  6. I read both the New York Times article (I strongly disagree with Mr. Nielsen – but then he sounds disagreeable). I also read the comments — pages and pages of comments. Very, very few agreed with Mr. Nielsen in entirety. Some agreed with the volume control and power button. There were a few Kindle users who were a bit disappointed but of the users the vast majority said they liked the Kindle Fire and are happy with their purchase.

    There was some typical “not an iPad” bashing and some Nook Color/Tablet comments. However, there were some realistic comments from iPad users like the one who said he has a mini-van and a small commuter car and while they share similar functions they are different vehicles for use. Overall the comments from users were generally positive.

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